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Jeff Ruggiero Deserves Custody of His Daughter
By Robert Franklin, Esq. It's time for Jeffrey Ruggiero"s daughter to come home. The people of New Hampshire probably know more about his ex-wife, Kristin Ruggiero, than they do about Jeff. That"s because she"s been in the news more. Almost three years ago, in the middle of their divorce, she accused Jeff of domestic violence and violation of a restraining order. It didn"t take the police long to figure out that her accusations were completely fabricated. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Jeff and instead indicted Kristin on 12 felony counts of lying to police and the district attorney"s office. But Kristin"s allegations kept Jeff under a legal cloud long enough for him to lose his job as a Coast Guard petty officer, almost lose his house, and have his parental rights to his daughter terminated. As Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard described it, that was her point. He told the jury: "She mocked him. She laughed at him. (She said) ‘I took all your money, I took your daughter, and now I am going to take your career." ' Since then, Kristin has been convicted of all 12 felonies and sentenced to 7 to 14 years in prison. All of that has been well publicized. It"s Jeff"s effort to regain custody of his daughter that the public has seen little of. Despite his having done no wrong and despite being a responsible and loving father, Jeff still has not regained custody. He only lost her in the fir st place because of allegations by Kristin that have now been proved beyond a reasonable doubt to have been false. Despite being indicted, Kristin retained custody of their daughter while awaiting trial. Now that she"s in prison, her mother, Elizabeth McDonald, has the girl. As a practical matter that means that Kristin is still making parenting decisions from her prison cell. But last week Elizabeth McDonald was herself indicted and new charges were brought against Kristin. The family court now has a choice about who should care for the little girl -- Kristin, Elizabeth McDonald or Jeff. Kristin will spend the next several years in prison, and McDonald is under indictment. Then there"s Jeffrey Ruggiero, who is the girl"s father. He"s remarried and continues to serve in our nation"s armed services. Jeffrey Ruggiero has done nothing to warrant being kept out of his daughter"s life. He has done no wrong. On the contrary, he"s had grave wrongs done to him. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that states may not deny rights to parents unless they have been proven to be unfit. Nothing of the sort has been proved against Jeffrey Ruggiero. The only "evidence' against him was the perjured testimony of his ex-wife. It"s time his little girl came home to live with the only decent figure in this whole sorry affair -- her father. This column first appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader (2/11/11). Robert Franklin, Esq. is a board member of Fathers and Families.